Psychologist Jonathon Haidt suggests a hypothetical exercise. Imagine that you have a child, and for five minutes you’re given a script of what will be that child’s life. You get an eraser and permission to edit the life — erase whatever you want.
You read that your child will have a learning disability in grade school. Reading, which comes easily for some kids, will be a discouraging chore for yours. In high school, your kids will make a great circle of friends; then one of them will die of cancer. After high school your child will get into a good college, but during college, will be in a car crash and lose a leg, and then go into a season of difficult depression. A few years later, your child will get a great job — then lose it in an economic downturn. Your child will get married, have children, but then lose a child, and then get divorced.
You get this script for your child’s life and have five minutes to edit it. What would you erase? Wouldn’t you want to take out all the stuff that would cause them pain? I know I would. But if we could erase every failure, every setback, every suffering and pain — are we really sure it would be a good idea?
Would it cause our child to grow up to be a better, stronger, more generous person? What if the adversity and setbacks were necessary for your child to become a man or woman of integrity? What if the pain actually expanded the capacity of their hearts to love? What if taking away the trauma took away an opportunity to show someone the grace of God at work in your life? What if that opportunity changed their life? What if it is perseverance through hardship that transforms us into people of hope?
If so, and God erased what we would erase…would He still be a good God? Somewhere along the line we got the idea that if God really loved us, He would make life comfortable, but the reality is that suffering is within the scope of God’s loving design.
It isn’t always the case that those who go through difficult times — grow through difficult times. Sometimes — for at least a season — the hard times may seem to break us. But if in the midst of the mess we draw closer to God, we will, in time see the beauty in the mess. I think that’s what James — the brother of Jesus — meant when he said, “Consider it joy when you go through the mess…”
For those of you in the mess…if you want to think a bit more about hope, that’s what we talked about last weekend at Calvary. Just click